This week we are sharing reflections from east London Christians on the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Agony in the Garden.

Click here for an introduction to the People's Rosary Project, and links to earlier meditations.

The Agony in the Garden

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 

He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ 

And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ 

He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 

And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 

He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

Mark 14.32-42

These are the mysteries that my mind cannot comprehend... it is the ultimate demonstration of love
Javier Melian-Perez, Catholic Parish of English Martyrs, Tower Hill

In the agony of Gethsemane, Christ resolves to drink the cup of suffering. Javier reflects on the way this act exceeds our human understanding - and invites us to follow our Lord on the path of sacrificial love.

As Caroline explains to Frankie Webster, praying these Sorrowful Mysteries in a group during the pandemic has drawn her closer to her Lord.

In this mystery, Christ chooses to place himself in the hands of others - in the hands of his enemies.
Fr Angus Ritchie, St George-in-the-East

Fr Angus reflects on this first Sorrowful Mystery, and what it teaches us about the sacrificial love at the heart of God.

At the hour which God had appointed to save humanity from its enslavement to sin, Jesus came here, to Gethsemane, to the foot of the Mount of Olives.

We now find ourselves in this holy place, a place sanctified by the prayer of Jesus, by his agony, by his sweating of blood, and above all by his “yes” to the loving will of the Father. We dread in some sense to approach what Jesus went through at that hour; we tread softly as we enter that inner space where the destiny of the world was decided...

In that hour, Jesus felt the need to pray and to have with him his disciples, his friends, those who had followed him and shared most closely in his mission.

But here, at Gethsemane, following him became difficult and uncertain; they were overcome by doubt, weariness and fright. As the events of Jesus’ passion rapidly unfolded, the disciples would adopt different attitudes before the Master: closeness, distance, hesitation...

Let us imitate the Virgin Mary and Saint John, and stand by all those crosses where Jesus continues to be crucified. This is how the Lord calls us to follow him. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also” (Jn 12:26).

Pope Francis, May 2014

You are invited to pray the Rosary now.

Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who sweated blood for us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

If you have not prayed the Rosary before, you can read our introductory page here.

The People's Rosary is a project of the Centre for Theology and Community and De Mazenod Retreat House in east London.

We are grateful for the support of the Lady Peel Trust in developing this project.